Article by Dr Shveta Setia Thareja – Prosthodontist
Maintaining proper dental care for children is crucial for their overall health and well-being. Many parents, however, struggle to determine the right approach and often lack awareness of the most effective methods. To help parents navigate this important aspect of their child’s health, here are some pointers and recommendations to ensure optimal dental care from infancy to early childhood.
- Start Early: Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s important to establish good oral hygiene habits. Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean damp cloth twice a day to remove bacteria and residue.
- First Dentist Visit: Schedule your child’s first dentist visit after their first tooth erupts. This early introduction helps familiarize them with dental care and allows the dentist to monitor their oral health development.
For Children Below Two Years of Age:
- Appropriate Toothpaste: When brushing your baby’s teeth, use a tiny smear of non-fluoridated toothpaste specifically designed for young children. Avoid using excessive amounts to minimize the risk of swallowing toothpaste.
- Sips of Water: After each milk feed, offer your child small sips of water to rinse their mouth and prevent milk from lingering on their teeth, which can contribute to tooth decay.
For Children Around Two Years of Age:
- Bottle Avoidance: Discourage putting your child to sleep with a bottle, as prolonged exposure to milk or sugary liquids can harm their teeth. Transition to a sipper cup with a straw or hard spout to minimize liquid contact with their teeth.
- Teach Spitting: Once your child is around two years old, introduce the concept of spitting while brushing. When they learn to spit, switch to using a minimum of 1000 ppm fluoride toothpaste to protect their teeth against decay.
- Regular Dental Visits: Schedule regular visits to the dentist every three months to monitor your child’s oral health, identify any potential issues early on, and receive professional guidance on dental care practices.
- Limit Sugary Liquids: Avoid giving your child sugary drinks or juices that can sit on their teeth for extended periods. These liquids can erode the enamel and lead to tooth decay. This condition, known as “bottle mouth” or “baby bottle tooth decay,” can cause discolored, pitted, and cavity-prone teeth.
Important Points to Remember:
- Twice-Daily Brushing: Encourage your child to brush their teeth twice a day, ideally after breakfast and before bedtime. Pay special attention to the time between breakfast and lunch, as food particles left in the mouth during this period can promote tooth decay.
- Mouthwashes and Rinsing: Consider incorporating mouthwashes or warm saline water rinses after meals to maintain oral hygiene. This practice helps rinse away food particles and reduces the risk of bacterial growth.
- Duration of Brushing: Ensure your child brushes their teeth for 1-2 minutes during each session. This duration allows for effective cleaning and plaque removal.
- Post-Meal Rinse: Encourage your child to rinse their mouth with water after meals or consuming sugary drinks or sweets. This habit helps remove debris and reduces the chances of dental issues.
- Fiber-Rich Diet: Include fiber-rich foods like cucumber, celery, and carrots in your child’s diet. These foods help maintain dental health by promoting saliva production and aiding in cleaning teeth naturally.
- Address Tooth Decay: Never ignore signs of tooth decay in children. If detected, take immediate preventive measures to halt its progression. Early intervention is crucial for preventing further damage and ensuring optimal oral health.
By following these guidelines and maintaining regular dental care practices, parents can provide their children with a strong foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles and overall oral well-being. Remember, establishing good dental habits early on sets the stage for a lifetime of oral health.